Alaska town gets help digging out of snowy prison

In this Jan. 8, 2012 photo provided by the Alaska National Guard members help dig out the fishing town of Cordova, Alaska.
AP/Alaska National Guard

The town of Cordova, Alaska is quite simply buried. CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports a record 18 feet of snow has already fallen this winter - six feet in just the past few days.

Buildings have collapsed, avalanches are rolling down from the mountains and boats are sinking in the harbor.

As one weary resident tells CBS News, "there is getting to be more snow in Cordova than people and shovels to deal with it."

It's reached crisis level, and on Sunday, Cordova's mayor declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard.

Dozens of guardsmen and women are helping to shift mountains of snow, which can weigh as much as 100 pounds per square foot. They will also help clear the one road to the airport. Besides boat, air is the only way in or out of this isolated coastal fishing town.

The frigid cold is creating dangerous conditions elsewhere, too. Some 700 miles to the northwest of Cordova, residents of iced-in Nome, Alaska worry that a Russian tanker carrying much-needed heating oil and fuel might not be able to reach them before they face severe shortages.

For Tracy's full report on the winter blast in Alaska, click on the video player above.